President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Nigeria last Friday after spending three weeks in the United Kingdom.
President Buhari left Nigeria for the United Kingdom on July 26 to participate in the Global Education Summit on Financing Global Partnership for Education (GPE) 2021-2025 and following that went to see his medical doctors.
Expectedly, the President and members of his entourage during his trip to the United Kingdom went into quarantine.
The decision of Buhari to go into quarantine was by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines for international travel.
Surprisingly on Monday, presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina released a statement saying the President has signed the Petroleum Industry Bill. Since the president was still in isolation, he signed the bill and the official ceremony was shifted to Wednesday when the president would finish his isolation.
It is instructive to note that the Petroleum Industry Bill( PIB) has been in the National Assembly since the beginning of the fourth republic. Power play and politics have made successive presidents not assent to the bill.
However, President Buhari took the bull by the horn and signed the bill despite opposition to some clauses in the bill.
On Wednesday, the president approved a steering committee to oversee the process of implementing the new act.
The steering committee is headed by the Honourable Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva.
Other members are Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Group Managing Director, NNPC, Executive Chairman, FIRS, Representative of the Ministry of Justice, Representative of the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Natural Resources, Barrister Olufemi Lijadu as External Legal Adviser, while the Executive Secretary, Petroleum Technology Development Fund, will serve as Head of the Coordinating Secretariat and the Implementation Working Group.
To be sure, the primary responsibility of the steering committee shall be to guide the effective and timely implementation of the PIA in the course of transition to the petroleum industry envisaged in the reform program, and ensure that the new institutions created have the full capability to deliver on their mandate under the new legislation.
The committee has 12 months duration for the assignment, and periodic updates will be given to Mr. President.
During the official ceremony, President Buhari Wednesday said Nigeria lost an estimated $50billion worth of investments in ten years, created by the uncertainty of non-passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), lack of progress, and stagnation in the petroleum industry.
In his remarks at a ceremony on passage of the PIA, which preceded the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, the President said the stagnation affected the growth of the economy, citing lack of political will on the part of past administrations to actualize the needed transformation.
President Buhari said assent of the Petroleum Industry Bill on August 16, 2021, marks the end of decades of uncertainty and under-investment in the petroleum industry.
He noted that the signing of the bill was part of the administration’s commitment to building a competitive and resilient petroleum industry that will attract investment, improve our revenue base, create jobs, and support our economic diversification agenda.
The President said as a “nation that depends on oil resources for the development of other sectors, Nigeria runs a Petroleum Industry that is governed largely by laws enacted over 50 years ago such as the principal legislation; the Petroleum Act of 1969 and other obsolete legislations.’’
He said the Presidential assent of the bill to “Petroleum Industry Act 2021” marked the beginning of the journey towards a competitive and resilient petroleum industry that will attract investments to support the nation’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
Indeed, since the president signed the bill they have been a congruence of opinion on the hasty decision of the president to sign the bill.
Some contend that all avenues and negotiations should have been exhausted before the president signs the bill while the other side of the divide commended the president for breaking the jinx as according to them, an imperfect PIB is better than no PIB.
Experts have expressed the hope that this new act will open a new chapter in the petroleum industry in the country.